'It's something I've been working for all my life': Timur Valiev SIGNS for UFC, heads to Las Vegas for debut on August 1 (VIDEO)
Valiev, who boasts a record of 16-2, has been chasing a shot at the big time, but has had to watch teammates Khabib Nurmagomedov and, more recently, Umar Nurmagomedov, get their chance on the global stage ahead of him.
However, the affable 30-year-old, whose fighting moniker is "Lucky," has finally been given his shot, and has signed a UFC contract.
The Russian is expected to make his octagon debut in Las Vegas, USA on the UFC's August 1 fight card. The event is likely to take place behind closed doors at the UFC's purpose-built UFC Apex facility, next to the promotion's Las Vegas headquarters.
His opponent is expected to be American Jamall Emmers in a featherweight bout, with the Russian stepping up from his usual weight class for a short-notice UFC chance.
Speaking to RT Sport about his signing, Valiev explained, "I'm in good shape. I came to the States to help Frankie Edgar prepare for his fight, knowing that there could be a replacement call. So I trained hard and I'm ready.
"I usually fight at bantamweight, but I accepted a fight at featherweight because I would never turn down the chance to fight in the UFC, it's something I've been working for all my life. So I'm glad that I finally got this opportunity.
"My opponent Jamall Emmers is a decent fighter, he's 10 centimeters taller and has 15 centimeters reach advantage. But that's not a problem for me. It only gives me additional motivation to show what I'm capable of."
Valiev earned his UFC opportunity with a four-year unbeaten streak that saw him register six consecutive victories.Also on rt.com ‘Land of Warriors’: Welcome to Dagestan (Episode 1)
Since losing his professional MMA debut back in September 2010, Valiev reeled off 10 successive wins before he lost out to The Ultimate Fighter veteran Chris Gutierrez in the now-defunct World Series of Fighting promotion in February 2016.
Undeterred, Valiev immediately bounced back and avenged his loss to Gutierrez just eight months later, and hasn't lost a fight since.
Valiev went on to pick up a hat-trick of victories for the PFL in the United States before heading home to Russia to compete for the Gorilla Fighting Championships (GFC), where he defeated two more rivals to establish himself as one of the top unsigned bantamweights in the world.
The Russian star was also featured heavily in RT Sport's documentary, "Land of Warriors," where our cameras followed Valiev before, during and after his first-round victory over Brazil's Giovanni da Silva at GFC 14 in Dagestan.Also on rt.com Land of Warriors: RT Sport takes behind-the-scenes look at Umar Nurmagomedov fight night preparations
After that victory, Valiev addressed the crowd and said the time was right for him to fight on the big stage.
"Now I feel I'm ready and I want to test myself in the world's best organization," he said.
"I think I deserve it. Inshallah, soon I'll make it."
Then, after heading backstage, he issued a come-and-get-me plea to the UFC in English via RT Sport's cameras.
"Sign me, guys. You have to sign me!" he said.
"I just finished a guy with 22 fights in the first round. You have to sign me!"
Now Valiev's wish has come true, and he'll get the chance to test himself at the highest level of the sport, starting on August 1.Also on rt.com 'He entered the MATRIX': New UFC star Fiziev shows fans skills that stunned Dana White in lucrative Fight Island victory (VIDEO)